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Busting Through the Media Firestorm: 6 Essential Facts About the Komen Controversy

How many of the rumors are inflated, and how many get at the real heart of why people responded to this decision with so much outrage?

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The story shows the link between the Brinkers, their circles and legislation they lobbied for which left poor women and the environment frequently in the lurch, and aided GOP politicians and big corporations. Swissler profiles a small group of activists outmaneuvered by Komen and its huge, feel-good races:

The races, they say, merely focus women on finding a medical cure for breast cancer, and away from environmental conditions causing it, the problems of the uninsured, and political influence of corporations over the average patient.

5. While the PR win of this brouhaha belongs to Planned Parenthood, the backlash has brought up some unfortunate myths -- e.g. "abortion has a medical link to cancer."

There is no known link between abortion and breast cancer. This false idea has been circulated both leading up to and in the wake of this decision by Komen,  most notably by Rick Santorum .

From the American Cancer Society, hardly a bastion of liberalism : "At this time, the scientific evidence does not support the notion that abortion of any kind raises the risk of breast cancer or any other type of cancer." Every major study supports this finding.

Nancy Brinker herself called such rumors an "old wives tale" in her memoir,  in the very same section where she mounts a vigorous defense  of the very Planned Parenthood grants she was prepared to end last week (after an attack by the religious-run Curves fitness centers):

"The grants in question supplied breast health counseling, screening, and treatment to rural women, poor women, Native American women, many women of color who were underserved--if served at all--in areas where Planned Parenthood facilities were often the only infrastructure available. Though it meant losing corporate money from Curves, we were not about to turn our backs on these women."

In the subsequent pages, Brinker dismisses the "ridiculous old wives' tale that abortion causes breast cancer."

So why,  Jodi Jacobsen of RH reality Check asks , did Komen add Jane Abraham, of the anti-choice Susan B. Anthony List to its board? "Abraham is also closely affiliated with the Nurturing Network, a global network of crisis pregnancy centers," Jacobsen writes, adding "Groups like Nurturing Network are the nucleus of lies about abortion and breast cancer. "

6. The backlash against Komen was a widespread grassoots revolt, not a conspiracy by the "liberal media" (sorry, Ross Douthat):

Ross Douthat, unsurprisingly,  uses his column  space to bemoan what he claims is a media erasure of American "pro-life" voices -- but he misses the story that many American women were furious at the decision regardless of their feelings on abortions. Viral videos and stories of women began to pop up talking about how their cancer didn't give a crap about who was in office or who was "pro-life"--and therefore their cancer organization shouldn't either.

Deanna Zandt, who created the Planned Parenthood Saved Me tumblr,  has a post explaining  who was coming to her site, which was gathering so much steam it hit the mainstream media. "You might think our crazy traffic came from those media mentions. Shockingly, no -- most of the hits came before the major media. So, to repeat: telling and sharing our stories matters,"  she writes.

The media saw this grassroots outrage growing on one hand -- and then got crickets, or contradictory information from within Komen. And thus, a narrative was born. 

Sarah Seltzer is an associate editor at AlterNet and a freelance writer based in New York City. Her work has been published at the Nation, the Christian Science Monitor, Jezebel and the Washington Post. Follow her on Twitter at @fellowette and find her work at